AP/Citizen Examines Botswana’s Success at Increasing Access to Antiretrovirals
The AP/Citizen on Thursday examined Botswana's success at providing widespread access to antiretroviral treatment among HIV-positive people in the country. About half of Botswana's roughly 110,000 HIV-positive residents in need of antiretroviral drugs have access to them, the AP/Citizen reports. Approximately 52,000 people receive treatment at no cost at 32 sites across the country and another 7,300 people access their drugs through private clinics. Botswana's small population of 1.7 million, its comparatively prosperous economy based on the diamond trade, and the fact that most people live within five miles of a clinic facilitate access to treatment for HIV-positive residents, according to the AP/Citizen. However, the most important factor has been the country's commitment to curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to Health Minister Sheila Tlou. Botswana in 2002 pledged to begin providing widespread access to antiretroviral treatment at no cost, and the government currently pays for more than 90% of the cost of providing drugs. The country also receives support from donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and pharmaceutical companies. In addition, HIV testing became routine in Botswana in 2003, and authorities estimate that about 35% of people in the country are aware of their HIV status -- a rate much higher than rates in other countries. However, because so many patients are willing to be tested, doctors are concerned that the health care system might not be able to handle the demand, according to the AP/Citizen. Some advocates also are concerned that people will no longer fear acquiring the disease as increased access to treatment prolongs the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS (Zavis, AP/Citizen, 12/29/05).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.